Every once in a while I'll receive an email
from a new fly fisher and the question will
be something which I expect 'everyone' probably
It's not a put-down on the new fly fishers at
all - the problem is when you've been fly fishing
for most of your life, there are some things which
are just 'in there.' Sort of like the old Prego
television commercial where a person asks if a
particular ingredient is in the Prego spaghetti
sauce and the spokesperson in a chef's hat says
"Trust me, it's in there!"
Here's an example: We were visiting with some friends
on a hot summer day on the Metolius River in Oregon.
One of the guys said they had not been able to raise
a fish in an area where he was sure there should have
been fish. Now, this friend is not new to fly fishing.
He is an accomplished saltwater and lake angler, but
not experienced in stream fishing. The Metolius is a
cold water spring creek, with some very nice trout
(and bull trout) and is heavily fished. It has some
good hatches as well.
We were about a quarter mile below the Sherman Camp
Store, the water is running from left to right,
mid-day with some shade on the far side of the stream.
I've already said it was a hot day. There is a bit
of a riffle, three feet wide at the most, near the
bank on the far side, about thirty feet upstream.
On the near side, about ten feet above where we are
standing, there is some brush and some broken branches
extending into the water. The stream is perhaps forty
feet wide where we are standing.
Our friend asks if I would show him where he should
be fishing. He has a fine 9 ft. custom rod, a proper
floating line, and leader/tippet without any wind knots
(yes, I checked) and a nicely tied dry fly of the
Do you have a mental picture? Where should you put
the dry fly? Why? What kind (type) of
cast should be used?
If I had handed you the rod and had you make the
cast, could you? Or, would you have to think about
it? In fact, how long did you have to think about
it just now?
No cheating, don't tell me to use a wet fly or a
nymph either. It's dry or nothing.
I should add there are very large Ponderosa pines
behind and next to us on the left, other brush on
the bank and the cast is going to have to be a bit
off to the side.
Ready to cast?
Since I had not cast the rod with this particular set
up in this situation, I did make a 'test' cast at
about five feet to the left of my target so as not
to 'line' (cast my fly line directly over) the fish
I expected to be lying in the position I selected.
The spot was the riffle water, in the shade, on the
far side of the stream, close to the bank.
It was a hot, bright day. The fish would feel
safer in broken water, (riffles) as well as the
safety factor being nearer the undercut bank.
It was also the shady area, which on a hot day
would be cooler water. The water would hold
more oxygen was also faster, shaded, but a place
to hide out of the main current.
The cast laid out nicely, no problem.
Time to go for the real thing.
I made the cast, canting the rod about 20 degrees
to the right to avoid the brush, and put a little
punch into the tip at the very end of the cast to
throw a little slack recoil at the end of the cast.
The cast landed above the riffle, unrolled and
floated down almost through the riffle perfectly...
fish rose exactly on cue - just as I turned to
explain what and why I had done to my friend and I
missed it. No harm done, he saw the whole sequence.
In all it took less than one minute to execute the
Because it was "in there."
So what's the point? Just this - it takes time,
and a lot of time spent fishing for it to be "in
there." A lot of time making mistakes. Casting
badly. Making the wrong cast. Having flies drag,
having leaders sink, having flies land sideways or
not roll out properly - or not being able to see
the fly on the water to know when you've made the
right or wrong cast at all. For some it comes
easier - for others it seems to take forever. It
doesn't happen over night. Not for anyone.
It's knowing your insects, matching the hatches,
learning presentation, learning to wade and be
stealthy, reading the water - just one thing after
another. And for each thing you learn there's
another waiting to be added to the list.
It gets "in there" by continuing to stuff it in
there by doing it. You aren't going to get it right
all the time, but some of the time, when you need it,
eventually it will be in there.
My first fly casting lesson was at age 11. One
should never ask a lady her age, but I will tell
you that was 57 years ago. I've pretty well got
the casting part down, but trust me, I'm still
learning the rest of it. ~ DLB
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